Here is the best way to make homemade caramel. First, put your sugar in a large, clean sauce pan. It needs to be clean to ensure the sugar crystals melt without crystallizing. If you want, you can add a little bit of water to evenly distribute the sugar crystals. And while you're at it, a little bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice will prevent crystallization. Keep the sugar on high heat, and don't touch the pot until it begins to take color. For 3/4 of a cup of sugar, it will take about 8 minutes for color to appear at the edges. Gently swirl the pot to evenly distribute the color. And remember, when it starts to turn color, pay close attention because everything from this point happens very quickly. You're looking for it to turn a dark amber color. Or if you're using a candy thermometer, you want it to reach 348 degrees. If you don't have a candy thermometer, one of the best ways to tell if it's ready is to use your nose. When you can smell a sweet, slightly bitter smell, remove the sugar from the heat and immediately stir in your heavy cream with a long-handled wooden spoon. Don't use a metal spoon because it conducts heat, and the sugar is extremely hot. And get ready 'cause it will bubble up like crazy. If you're using butter, stir it in until it's fully incorporated. And that's it. You've got smooth, rich, buttery homemade caramel. For more cooking tips from our test kitchen, check out Southern Living.